Tubby Smith still has basketball in his blood.
And once it’s in your system, it doesn’t come out.
“I’m still wanting to play,” the Texas Tech coach said. “I still think I can play, but I can’t.”
According to scholarshipstats.com, there were 5,370 student athletes who played NCAA Division I men’s basketball in 2013. There are currently only 450 athletes maximum in the NBA.
When you throw in international players, that amounts to 2 percent of NCAA athletes who end up playing professionally.
Through Smith’s 42 seasons as a coach, he has sent 19 players to the NBA.
Nine of them had their names called on draft day, six of whom went in the first round.
“Over the years we run into each other,” Smith said of his former players turned NBA professionals. “We talk but not on a regular basis.”
Smith is aware of the slim odds as well as the professional dream of every freshman that joins his team.
He makes sure their focus is on the day at hand. It’s all about preparation.
“Are you doing what you have to do today to get better?” Smith said. “You have to be able to play (at the college level) first. If you can’t play here then I don’t know who can help you at the next level.”
Occasionally Smith has players with big NBA dreams that he isn’t sure will come true.
But he doesn’t destroy that dream. Instead he steers them toward making sure they have their degree.
“You never want to take his dream away,” Smith said. “Every player on my team here at Texas Tech thinks they can play beyond college. But you have to be realistic.”
During their time on the court, Smith wants his players to prepare themselves for the day at hand and to improve each day.
He also wants his players to prepare themselves for life after college and life after basketball.
“How you prepare to be a father,” Smith said. “How you prepare to be a provider. How you prepare to be a citizen to make a comfortable living so you can be successful in life. That’s my whole mantra.”
That’s what he teaches with his time management contracts he gives to his players.
“We talk academics first,” he said. “Then we talk about their careers and then basketball. From there we talk about how they can start to reach those goals, along with social and spiritual goals.”
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